• Category Archives The Business Side of Art
  • Thursday Thoughts – A Plan and a Painting

    First a Painting

    From Chiropractor’s Wall to Collector’s Wall

    You might remember me telling about a painting that I reclaimed from my chiropractor’s office because I felt it wasn’t being displayed satisfactorily.  While I put it there in the hopes that someone waiting for massage or adjustment might see it and decide to buy it, it was never hung in a very visible place.  The place it was displayed was only being seen by people on their way for x-rays, which at a chiropractor’s office is usually only for your first visit.  Well, I reclaimed the painting and put it up in the studio where everyone who came in could see it, and it finally sold. Only it didn’t sell as a result of being seen in the studio.  It sold from my etsy shop to a collector in California.

    This was great encouragement for me, because while I’ve sold prints and T-shirts, cards, and hand painted glassware.  It has been a while since I sold an original painting, and it was making me wonder if it was ever going to happen again.

    Koi fish
    My Koi Pond is off to its new home.

    I just packaged this painting last night and got in the mail today, it should be arriving at its new home next week sometime.

     

    Next, a Plan

    Log it, track it, write it down and add it up.

    So, in my last post I shared about how I didn’t keep track of financials as they happened, and it is causing much delay in filing my business taxes.  Well, I am not making the same mistake in 2017, I am keeping a running ledger, so I will always know at a glance what shape I am in financially.

    While I don’t plan to make up for previous years’ losses, I don’t want losses in 2017.  So, unless the expense is unavoidable, like a bill that is due and can’t be delayed, I will not spend money on my art, or classes, or studio, unless I am in the black.  I have a pretty good start to 2017 already, January I came out $25 in the black, and now with a sale in February I am looking to probably ending February in the black too, by at least as much as January, so the two will accumulate to being at least $50 in the black for the year so far.

    Now of course if I am in the middle of a painting and need a certain color of paint I’ll probably buy it regardless of financials, but a lot of my spending in 2016 were not things I needed right then, a lot of it was because this store or that one was having a great deal on canvases or paints that would likely come in handy later.  Since I didn’t really know I was operating in the red, I went ahead and bought things that I didn’t even really need for a project right then.

    Well no more.  From now on if it is discretionary it will only be purchased if my art business is in the black by enough to cover it.  My goal for 2017 is to at least come out even financially in my art business.  Now, that might not seem like much of a financial plan, but its a start.  Sure it would be great to turn a nice profit, but I love doing art, and if all it does is pay for itself, I will be pretty satisfied.

    One good thing about all the supplies I purchased in 2016, I have plenty stashed up to start 2017 without spending much.  Yes, there may be an occasion here or there where I need something specific, but for the most part I have enough supplies to do almost any art project I might want to do.  If I buy anything at all in the coming year it would likely be paints as I run out.  I have canvases everywhere. I might have to buy more of the economy canvases for my classes at some point, but not right away, and as for the canvases for my personal use, I have more than I think I could possibly use in one year.

    So, I don’t think curtailing my spending is going to curtail my creating of art at all.

     


  • Tips on Tuesday, Keep Track as You Go

    Book keeping nightmare.

    I’m late filing my business taxes this year.  Why? Because I saved all the figuring until the end of the year.  I saved receipts to track expenses, but didn’t add them up month to month.  That means I had to get them all added up in the month of January, with my husband’s help I managed.

    The Department of Revenue wants a lot of detail.

    Then there was income, some sales through etsy, some through the co-op, some independently, some parties/classes through the studio, some independently.  Etsy keeps a good record for me, the co-op told me how much I made through them, but didn’t divide it into sales and classes, which I need to know apparently.  The wonderful bookkeeper  for the co-op is looking into it for me, and soon I’ll know what I need to know.  You see, every painting I make and sale has to be reported as “manufactured goods”, every sale I make through etsy or independently has to be reported as “retail sales”, every sale I make through another entity such as a consignment shop or co-op, my share of that income gets reported as “wholesale”. On top of that I need to know which of the sales I made myself apart from the co-op were made locally or out of state, through etsy.

    This isn’t for income taxes, this is to pay the sales tax on the items I sold at retail in state, and the Business and Occupations tax, and the out of state sales have to kept track of separately in order to not be charged sales tax on them.  Income taxes will be another monster to tackle down the road, but getting the report on taxable income from this first business filing is necessary in order to file my income taxes.

     

    A Ledger would have let me know what I could afford.

    Another thing that keeping track as I go would have told me is that I was spending too much.  I thought maybe I had actually shown a profit this year, but I didn’t.  I spent far too much on supplies.  Now, a lot of those supplies are still usable this year, so maybe next time around I’ll see a profit… but if I started keeping track month to month, I could try to make sure that there was a balance happening, and curtail spending when a profit wasn’t likely.

    So that is my tip for this Tuesday, keep a ledger as you go!

     


  • Belonging to an Artist Co-op Studio

    Artist Co-ops offer Many Benefits

    If you’re an are artist you have probably wondered before about joining an artist co-op.  Why would you want to join?  Is it worth the membership fee?  What would you gain from membership?  As an artist, I can attest that belonging to an artist co-op offers many perks, and I thought that today I’d list some of them.

    Providing a gallery area for selling is a common feature of a co-op studio.
    Providing a gallery area for selling is a common feature of a co-op studio.

    Increased Opportunity to Sell

    Most co-ops have galleries exclusively for member’s work. Even those that don’t have an actual gallery will usually have opportunities to share the cost a booth at art shows. Most emerging artists have difficulty coming up with the $100-$200 per day a booth at an art show costs, especially considering that there is no guarantee of selling anything, and splitting that cost with even one or two other artists can really help. in addition, co-ops will often have deals with local restaurants and other businesses to display work for sale, and lets face it, they are more open to someone coming to them with an official sounding name like “South End Artist League Co-op”, than they are to an individual coming in and saying, “Hey, I paint pictures, I was wondering if you’d allow me to display my work here.”

    Social Interaction

    Many artists have a tendency to be reclusive, its usually not because they dislike people though, more often than not its because they get wrapped up in their work, which is usually not something that needs to involve others.  There’s also the fact that many artists feel that they don’t quite fit with the typical crowd.  Artists and other creatives have brains that are wired differently, some would say we are right brain dominant, and we sometimes find it difficult to interact with the more left-brained majority. (Incidentally, the degree of this varies from person to person, I tend to be very global in those right brain vs left brain tests, with only a slight leaning to the right, and I still have a lot of trouble relating to extremely left brained individuals).  Whether its left brain vs. right bright brain, or whether its just that non-creatives don’t share the same interests, it is really refreshing to get together with others who fully understand the statement, “Yes, I was hungry, but I forgot about eating because I was trying to finish this drawing.”  Only another artist doesn’t raise an eyebrow if they hear you saying you don’t know how you are going to pay rent this month, while simultaneously handing the cashier at the art supply store your debit card to pay for your $70+ order of paints and canvases.  Its also nice to get together with people who understand how excited you are over trying a painting medium you never tried before.

    If nothing else, a co-op makes us get out of our houses and private studios, and get together with others on occasion.

     

    Getting together with others is great, both just for social interaction to learn from each other.
    Getting together with others is great, both just for social interaction to learn from each other.

    Learning from other Artists

    Some artists have gone to art school and tried a lot of different techniques and mediums as part of their course of study, but a lot of artists are mostly self-taught.  These artists might have taken a few High School level art classes, and a workshop or class here and there, but that’s it.  Other than those things they have learned through books, YouTube videos, and trial and error.  Regardless of whether an artist has a MFA, BFA, or is self taught, most will acknowledge that most of their learning comes from practice, practice, practice.  Most will also acknowledge that they don’t know it all, and often learn new things just from being around other artists.  The artist with a degree in design might know a lot about how to compose an art work perfectly, but not really know much at all about how to paint with actual paints, as opposed to computer programs, on the other hand, a painter might be very skillful in handling the actual medium of paint, but may need to learn some tricks on composition and color use, and might really want to learn how do digital art. Both can teach each other, and both may learn something about passion and excitement from the brand new, completely untaught artist.

    The artist who usually paints in acrylic might really benefit from working side by side with the mixed media artist or the watercolor painter. etc.  The point is that by belonging to a co-op, and interacting socially with other artists, we have that chance to learn something new, or to be reminded of things we might not have utilized since a long ago college course.

    Learning from other people.

    Okay, this kind of goes with the one above, but its not just art we learn from each other.  We might learn about effective ways to greet potential customers, what our tax requirements are, best methods of bookkeeping, what we can legally deduct from our income, and how to protect our work from copyright infringement. The list could go on.

    The Opportunity to Pool Resources

    Bulk orders of art supplies, splitting rent on a studio, sharing booth fees at art shows, purchasing a high end printer for giclee prints, all things that it might be difficult for one person to do alone, but are feasible when done as group and sharing the cost. Even running the gallery, if an artist tried to open their own studio/gallery combination, that artist would have to be there all the time during open hours, or hire help.  A co-op can divide those hours up among all members, rather than paying employees to keep the gallery open.

    Art supplies cost a lot, pooling resources can be a real benefit.
    Art supplies cost a lot, pooling resources can be a real benefit.

    A Place to Teach

    I enjoy teaching painting classes, some artists like teaching drawing, some really like teaching kids, a co-op studio offers a place to that.

     

    painting class photos
    Painting classes, everyone’s is a little different, and there’s always at least one person who goes completely rogue and paints something totally different than the Sample painting.

    Those are the benefits of belonging to a co-op studio/gallery, like the one I belong to.  Of course there are drawbacks too, but I’ll address those in a different post.

     

    If you’d like to enter a contest to win a free, signed, archival print (A $25 value) of my painting “Cerebral Cessation”, enter the drawing, details found By Clicking Right Here.

     


  • Some of My Favorite Resource Sites

    Making Art Takes Supplies!

    Making art takes supplies, and making high quality, lasting art takes high quality supplies.  Those supplies cost money, so buying from the place that gives the best deal is a really good idea.  Today I decided to post a short list of my favorite supply sites.

    1. Dick Blick Art Supplies —  Honestly, if Blick doesn’t carry it, it probably doesn’t exist.  Canvas, paint, mediums, paper, frames, pencils, pastels, the list goes on and on.  They carry both the artist quality supplies needed to complete lasting works, and the less costly student supplies I use for my classes.  For my painting classes, I can’t beat their price on canvas in bulk, and the Blickrylic paints beat the student quality paints I can buy locally at Michael’s for both price and quality.
    2. WholesaleArtsFrames.com — this is also a good site to buy canvas in bulk, they also offer fairly good prices on some frames.
    3. Cheap Joe’s Art Stuff — LIke Blick’s, this site has a wide variety of both student quality and artist quality supplies.
    4. Finerworks — my go to site for archival quality giclee prints, though soon I will not be ordering prints online at all anymore, since the co-op I am part of has purchased an awesome giclee quality printer, and now just need to finish setting it up and getting it color calibrated.
    5. Short Run Posters — this is a good source for poster quality prints.  You know, when someone wants a 16×20 print of your work but doesn’t WANT to pay the $40-$50 it would cost for an archival giclee on paper… its nice to be able to offer them a poster quality print for $15 or less. What makes them great is that unlike other print shops, they don’t make you purchase thousands of the same image to give you a bulk price.  You can order 1 each of 10 or 15 different images, and get a good low price, which means when you go to resell the posters, you don’t have to charge as much to make a profit.
    6. Vistaprint — I don’t use vista print for art prints, but for business cards and greeting cards, they often offer really good deals.

    So there you have it, those are my top choices for online sites for art and printing supplies.  Of course sometimes the convenience of walking into a store and getting what you need right away is great, and for that I usually go to Micheal’s.

     


  • Looking Back, Planning Forward

    Looking Back over 2016

    For Me 2016 was a Pretty Good Year

    I know that 2016 was a tumultuous year for many in the U.S.A. and was a controversial one politically.  However, on a personal level, and an artistic level, it was a pretty good year for me.

    I have continued taking part in ArtSLAM studio, and have taught a lot of painting classes there, I’ve also taught one class off site, on my own.  The sales of my art has increased considerably, both because of ArtSLAM and because of implementing good SEO strategies for my Etsy Shop.  Now, I don’t yet know if my art income has been greater than my expenditure for the year, but I believe there is a pretty good chance that it has been, and if so, it will have been the first time since I started trying to sell me art.  Even if I didn’t actually profit, I know that at the very least, my losses will be far less this year than ever before, but I do believe that I actually profited a little.

    On a personal level, circumstances that some would see as negative have actually allowed me to grow much closer to my granddaughter than would have normally been possible, so I see it as a positive thing.

     

    There’s Always Room for Improvement

    All in all its been a pretty good year.  Of course though, there are some areas that could have been better.

    In the area of my health, I just haven’t been diligent in eating healthy and exercising, so I’ve regained weight that I had previously lost. Along with the weight regain, problems with my ankles and feet have started resurfacing.  In addition to that I injured my right arm quite unexpectedly, when all I was doing was tuning a radio!  I reached out, tuned the radio, and then, as I was pulling my arm back to my lap, I heard a pop and felt intense pain in my elbow.  My arm hasn’t been the same since, and according to my chiropractor/physical therapist, I have tennis elbow.  With the exercises he gave me for it, it has gotten considerably better, but I still can’t straighten my arm fully, and its been over six months since I injured it.  Most of the time it doesn’t bother me, but if I have to lift something heavy, or extend my arm too far, it hurts. Also, if I paint for hours, like I used to, it starts to ache.  As long as I take breaks and stretch the elbow now and then, and as long as I don’t try to lift anything with an extended arm, its okay though.

    Financially, my family really hasn’t kept a budget, also we had to have our roof replaced, and we need a new septic system.  So our debt is growing.

    As for the business side of my art, while I’ve done much better with my etsy shop and with finding ways to earn, I need to get better about keeping my books as I go, so I don’t have to do it all at year-end.  I also really need to do a better job of keeping up my website and blogs.  I also have a lot of new art that has never been uploaded to either site.

     

    Planning Ahead for 2017

    Goals for 2017

    Well, enough looking back. Now for the planning forward part of this post!

    My goals for 2017 are pretty straight forward responses to the issues I noted above.

    1. I want to eat healthier and exercise regularly. To that end I plan to once again begin logging my food on MyFitnessPal starting on January 3rd. I’ve already started walking more regularly because I’ve started walking a dog for pay.  In addition I am going to start slowly adding more walks by walking my own dogs.  I’m adding those additional walks slowly because of the problems with my feet and ankles, and because my dogs, especially my elderly dog Spunky, are out of shape and need to  slowly work up to regular exercise.
    2. I want my family to start figuring out a budget to implement, to that end, starting today I’m keeping track of what we spend at the grocery stores, for gasoline, at other stores, and online.  That way, we can figure out a starting point, and start trying to make improvements.  My goal is to have a budget on paper or computer ready to implement by March.  That doesn’t mean we won’t do anything until March, for January and February we are tracking, so we can figure out where we stand and which areas we might be able to cut back on.
    3. I want to continue fine-tuning my etsy shop SEO, and I want to get my newer art works uploaded to both my website and my Etsy shop.  To that end I am going to try to check each week to see if I need to make any changes to existing listings, or to add a listing.  One or two listings a day, either uploading a new one or fine tuning and existing one, and just be consistent in doing something with it at least two times each week.
    4. I want to start keeping my blogs up.  Especially the blog attached to my art website, but also my personal blog. To that end I want to begin posting on each of my blogs at least once a week.

    The Ultimate Blog Challenge

    To kick off this blogging year, I have once again joined the Ultimate Blog Challenge.  For the next 31 days, I will post something every day.  Now, most of the time it will be on my art blog, but I may occasionally post on one of other two blogs instead,which are my personal and weight loss blog, and my devotional blog.


  • The Ultimate Blog Challenge Draws to a Close

    July’s Blog Challenge is Done

    So the Ultimate Blog Challenge for July is done, the next one will be in October.  So I probably won’t post every single day on this blog.  I would like to keep posting at least two or three times a week though.

    I am glad to have taken part in this challenge, because it helped me to develop a habit of getting on my blog each day.  Not only that, but through another blogger I learned a little more about SEO, and adding metadata to my whole site, and also to each post.  So hopefully when I blog now, it will get seen by more people.

    I am still figuring out some of the metadata stuff, but I’m already implementing what I have learned, and I’m trying to read up on the parts I don’t fully understand yet, once I have a good grasp on everything, I’ll share on a blog post so that I can help others increase their web traffic also.

    For now, I can share that if you are on a WordPress blog, there are many plugins you can get that will let you add custom metadata, such as keywords, descriptions of the post, and what title will appear when the you share the post on social media.  The description factor is nice because if you don’t enter it, what will automatically show is just the first few lines of your post, which in some cases doesn’t really give a clear idea of what it’s about.  By adding a custom description to each post, you can let people know what the post is about in a little more detail than you can usually do in a title alone.

    You can also add metadata to the entire website with these plugins, so that if you have an art blog or artist’s website that not only sells art but also offers art marketing advice, or art tutorials, you can add those keywords to the metadata of the entire site and help search engines to find your art website.
    There are some things I still don’t understand, such as where the plugin I used (called the add meta tags plugin) asks for “site-wide meta tags” but then says not to put keywords there, there is another place to enter global keywords, but the I’m just not sure what the site-wide meta tags would be if not keywords.  I’m going to try to learn about that and share it when I know more.

    So, today is Sunday, the first day of the week, and this would be my first post of this week, if I am going to keep with my goal of posting at least twice a week, you will hear from me again at least one more time before next Sunday.  I won’t make any promises at this time of what day it will be, but unless some unforeseen circumstance prevents it, I will post once or twice more this week.

    So if you participated in this blog challenge, what did you learn?

    Also, if you know what the term “site-wide meta tags” actually means, please fill me in!  😉

     

    Hand on computer keyboard Photo by GaborfromHungary at Morguefile.com
    Photo by GaborfromHungary at Morguefile.com
  • Pricing Art

    Pricing Art, No Easy Task

    How other things are priced.

    When it comes to pricing art, it is different than pricing other products.  When most people decide what to charge for a product or service, the process breaks down to a simple formula that makes sense and is hard to argue with:

    (Time)(rate of labor) + cost of materials + other costs = price

    How this would look if you were building a deck on someone’s house is this (I’ll say the owner of this company is also its only employee to keep it simple, otherwise we need to add another category, which is desired profit):

    Job takes 15 hours, you decide that you need to earn $30 per hour because that’s the going rate for this kind of work in your area, the materials cost $250, other costs such as gas to run machinery, wear and tear on tools and such is figured at $50 for this job.  In reality the other costs would probably much higher because you’d need insurance and things like that, but this is just for illustration.  So here is the formula.

    (15 hours x $30) + $250 + $50 = $750

    Now if this person was a business owner with employees it would look a little different, because we would say (Time)(rate of labor) + cost of materials + other costs + desired profit = price.

     

    Art is different.

    In a perfect world, art would be priced the same way as building a deck.  The artist would decide on the hour wage they required to support themselves, lets just say $20 per hour for this example, they would multiply that wage by the hours spent making a piece, add the cost of the materials, add in other expenses such as commissions paid to galleries, and maybe a percentage of the studio rent they pay, and that would arrive at the price to charge.  That formula is fair, it makes sense, it is logical.

    And it DOESN’T WORK, at least not perfectly

    Here is why:

    Lets say we are going to price painting on a 36 inch by 36 inch gallery wrapped cotton canvas.  The artist buys this pack of 5 canvases, which means that before tax and shipping the canvas costs them $20.15 each, for sake of this example we’ll say the artist lives next door to the art supply store and doesn’t spend anything on gas, and they have a resell certificate so they can purchase the materials without paying sales tax (this is tricky for artists to get, but more on that later).  So the materials so far run $20.15.  Now for paint, the only way for the artist to know how much paint he uses up in one painting would be to weigh the tubes before and after the painting, and not to use those tubes for anything else in the meantime.  Now, professional quality acrylic artist paint varies in price depending on the brand and color, but an average price is about $3.45 per oz, if the artist buys the larger jars to save money.  If the artist buys the typical 2 oz tubes, then it comes to around $5 per oz.

    So lets say that to cover this 3 foot by 3 foot canvas, the artist used 4 oz of paint (sometimes paintings have texture from thick paint, sometimes the paint is applied thinly, with no texture, so the amount of paint used varies accordingly).  So 4 oz of paint, multiplied by $3.45 per oz, and that is $13.80.  Now the artist also seals the painting with what is known as an isolation coat, and then a layer of varnish.  Lets just estimate the cost of both of those together to be $5, then add $2.00 for the hardware to wire the back of the painting for hanging.  So now for our materials cost we come to $40.95, lets round that to $41 for the sake of simplicity.

    Next we have our labor cost.  We had said this artist decided they needed to make $20 per hour, but they are only considering the hours they actually work on this painting, not the time they may spend manning a booth at a show or putting in unpaid time at a co-op gallery to try sell it.  So lets say they aren’t considering that because they won’t do those things, they show their work in a traditional gallery that will collect a commission at the time of sale.  Galleries typically charge 40-60% of the sale price as commission. So for our purposes we’ll say the gallery will take 40%, and the artist will keep 60% of the sale price.

    The time spent on a painting varies widely depending on the style.  Detailed portrait work of this size could easily 40 hours, a splatter-style abstract on the other hand might only take 2 hours, including the time to seal and varnish and wire it for hanging.  Lets say this piece though is an impressionistic landscape, and will take about 9 hours to complete the painting, plus another hour for the finishing work of sealing, varnishing, and wiring, so 10 hours of labor all together.

    ($20 per hour) x (10 hours) + $41 material cost = $241

    So $241 is what the artist needs to make on this painting after commission.  But remember, the artist only gets to keep 60% of the sale price, in order to figure out what the artist needs to charge we need to do another calculation.  If we divide the artists cost, by their percentage, we’ll find out what the actual price needs to be.  First though we convert that percent to a decimal, so instead 60% we will have 0.60.  So here is our formula $241÷0.60=$401.67.

    The problem is that only a few people are actually willing to pay $400 for a painting, no matter how skillfully it is painted.  So while the artist may start of this price, a year or two later they start cutting the price, $350, $300, $275, $250 Finally lets say it sells at $225, the artist keeps 60% which is $135, the materials cost the artist $41, so the artist actually made $94 for 10 hours of work, or $9.40 an hour.  That is actually good in the artists eyes though, because often they end up making much less.

    Most artist don’t use that formula at all

    Most artist don’t even go through all those steps though, most will charge by square inch, or will ask the gallery owner what he or she thinks the piece can sell for, and then the artist just takes their cut of that without regard to the hours they put in, often this results in the artist getting $75 for a piece that cost them $41 to make, so the artist actually made $3.40 an hour.

    My recommendation to artists.

    My recommendation to artists, and what I will start with future pieces, is to at least use, as a starting point, the formula:

    (Time)(rate of labor) + cost of materials = your price before commissions

    They may have to cut the price down some to make it sell, but at least they will be aware of how much they’d like to receive, and how much they absolutely MUST receive in order to not lose money, at least if you use that formula as your starting point, you will know when you start cutting down the price how much less per hour you are making, and you will know what you can’t drop below if you are going to make anything at all.

     

    My recommendation to art collectors.

    Consider buying directly from artists on their websites, at art fairs, or in their studios.  If the artist doesn’t have to pay 40-60% of the price to the gallery, they are probably going to be a lot more flexible with you, the customer.

    That being said, if you see the work in the gallery, don’t try to contact the artist privately and arrange for a private sale.  This is unfair to the gallery owner who is paying rent to keep a gallery open so you can see the art in the first place.  It is also putting the artist in a position where they are being asked to violate their deal with the gallery, because 98% of the time, they have signed a contract that disallows them from pulling a piece and selling it to you if you saw it in the gallery.

    You could though, contact the artist and see if they have other pieces that are not being shown in the gallery, often this is allowed.


  • Taking Responsibilty

    Sometimes, things go wrong.

    When dealing with any kind of business, whether its selling art or selling hamburgers, sometimes things go wrong.  Sometimes its because you, the business owner, make a mistake.  Sometimes it is due to somebody else’s carelessness.  Whatever the cause, when things go wrong in a way that damages relationships with customers, the business owner should take responsibility for making it right.

    with any kind of business, whether its selling art or selling hamburgers, sometimes things go wrong. Click To Tweet

    Its not always your fault when things go wrong.

    Sometimes, the problem is something completely out of your control, but you still have to do you best to make it right.  Such was the case back in February when a customer ordered an archival print from my etsy shop.

    Archival prints take longer, but this was ridiculous.

    The customer had ordered the Archival print, and those always take longer than a standard print because I can get a standard print made locally and in most cases get it in the mail the day after the order is placed, but with an archival print, I have to order from a print shop that specializes in fine art archival prints and then wait for them to mail the print to me before I can mail it to the customer.  Usually that means it is in the mail on the way to the customer within one and a half weeks, possibly two, and almost always in the customers hands before 3 weeks has passed.

    This time, the customer placed the order on February 11, and it didn’t make it in the mail to the customer until March 22, and I felt just awful, even though there was nothing I could have done to prevent this.

     

    What took this print so long?

    Well here’s what happened.  As usual I placed the order for the print the day the order was placed by the customer.  Then I waited.  A week passed, I wondered why I didn’t have it yet, but didn’t worry too much yet.  Then another week passed and I was really wondering, I checked with the printer to see if they had shipped it, and saw that it had shipped two days after I ordered it.  Another week passed, and still no sign of the print, another week went by and I decided to order another from a different printer, while I was still trying to track down this package.  I contacted the first printer and asked for tracking information, and then looked online at the post office site to see where it was in transit, and saw that it said it had been delivered almost two weeks previously when I wasn’t home.  The notation said it was left on my front porch.

    I was baffled.  I went outside and looked around.  No sign of a package or envelope anywhere on the front porch.  I started walking my property, I live on acreage so there was a lot of ground to cover, and finally, I found a wet and torn envelope very far away from house. I opened it, and sure enough, this is what I found:

     

    damaged fine art print
    The way the post office got my print to me

    The second printer got the print to me fairly quickly, and I got the print in the mail to my customer as quickly as I could after I received it myself, but by then my customer had already been waiting more than 5 weeks.  Now, I had sent messages to the customer during all of this to keep them updated as to why this order was taking so long, but I still felt that I needed to do something to make it up to them.

    I did all I could to make it right with the customer.

    So I included a few free printed greeting cards of my art, and a coupon code that would basically allow them order another print free. I also wrote the customer an apology and full explanation and put that in with print, in case they hadn’t seen my messages.

    The customer never did use the coupon code, but I hope at least they saw that I had made an effort to make up for the long wait.

    Now, I didn’t make any money on this sale at all, in fact, it cost me money, because I had paid for two prints, plus the greeting cards, paid to have both prints shipped to me, and paid to ship the good print to the customer, but I would rather lose the money than have a customer think my etsy shop “doesn’t care about the customer”.

    I would rather lose money than have a customer think I don't care about them. Click To Tweet

    Not every business treats their customers that well.

    Unfortunately, not every business tries that hard to keep their customers happy.  Remember that first printer?  I called them letting them know that the package had arrived damaged, and they promised to send me a new print free of charge, but I never received it.  According to the tracking information on THAT package, it was delivered to the post office, and then “reclaimed by sender” a day later at the same post office.  In other words, they changed their mind.

    Well, I don’t blame them for not wanting to send a print when it wasn’t their fault the first was damaged, but still, more than a print was damaged.  By not doing as they promised, they lost my business forever.  I will never order prints from them again.  I will instead order from the second printer in the story above.  If that first printer had simply said they were sorry, but couldn’t help me, I might have understood, but no, they told me on the phone, “Sure, we’ll send you another print!” and then they didn’t do it.
    For that they’ve lost a customer forever, one who before that had recommended them to others, and had spent a considerable amount of money with them, one who will likely continue needing prints on regular basis for years to come, but who will now go elsewhere for those prints.

    By not doing as they promised, they lost my business forever. I will never order prints from them… Click To Tweet

     


  • A Few Tips for Using Etsy as a Selling Tool

    There are a lot of pros and cons to using etsy as a selling tool, rather than just selling directly from ones own website, but I’m not going to outline those right now.  Someday I probably will switch over to having a shopping cart on my website instead of going through etsy, but at this time the convenience of etsy’s shopping cart and calculated shipping are working for me while I try to find the best wordpress plug in  to take its place.

    In case you are also using etsy, or thinking about using etsy, I thought it might to share with you some tips I’ve learned.  I learned some of these tips through trial and error, and others through online courses.  I’m not offering this as a full course, instead, I’m condensing it and just passing on what I’ve found most helpful so far.

    You can’t just post it thoughtlessly

    So you’ve made a necklace, or a painting, or knitted a hat, or made any other kind of handmade item you want to sell, and everyone tells you, “Oh that’s great!  You should sell on etsy!”

    So you go to etsy and open an account, and start your store.  Next you take your item, lets say for now its a knitted hat, you see that etsy asks you to post at least one picture, you put your hat down on your table, and snap a picture of it, then you upload the picture.  You see that etsy allows more than one photograph, but you figure one is good enough.  You see that the next step to uploading an item is to enter a title.  You type the words “Knitted Hat”, you figure out the categories and the pricing and enter those, then its time to make a description.  You’ve already told them its a knitted hat, so you look at it try to figure out what else to say.  Its a green hat so you decide to describe it as a “Green knitted hat”  You then decide that maybe you should mention the crocheted flower you attached to your knitted hat, so you edit your description to say, “Green knitted hat with pink crochet flower on rim”.

    Then you move on.  You are asked to enter tags. So you tag it as “hat”, “knitted”, “accessories”, and “women’s fashions”.

    You are asked to enter the materials used, You enter “Yarn”, then you think better of it and decide to specify, “Green acrylic yarn”, “pink acrylic yarn”.

    You figure out the shipping options, see that the other stuff is optional, so you skip it, then you publish and wait for your hat to sell.  Four months later, your listing expires, and you wonder if its worth renewing it, because according to your stats it only got a few views, and you don’t understand why, its a very attractive hat, the yarn you chose is durable, known for retaining its shape, and is even machine washable, its been cold out, so people should be looking for warm hats.  You decide to give it another go and renew it, and four months later the same scenario ensues, except now its spring and no one is in the market for winter hats anymore.  You abandon your shop and wonder how anyone ever sells anything on etsy.

     

    How to make an etsy listing that will get seen

    So lets look at this, and go through this listing process again, and see how you could have listed your lovely hat in a way that would have gotten some views at least.

     

    The pictures

    Okay, so the first thing you come to when creating an etsy listing is the place to post photos.  What you need to remember about your photos is that need to showcase your item in such as a way as to grab attention.  A hat laying on a table or desk looks, to most people, like clutter.  Like someone forgot to put their hat away.   You can improve the appearance by maybe putting a some boxes or blocks down to lean the hat on, and then cover those with a table cloth in a complimentary color to the hat, or a color such as white or brown that will show it off without clashing.  Set a vase with some flowers in it next to it… prop the hat up on the boxes behind it, get down on eye level, and take the picture.  Now, at least the photo is interesting.

    But wait!  Is there an even better way to showcase this hat?  Sure there is!  Get a friend to put the hat on, go outside in the cold, in some place that shows the season in the background, (for example fall leaves, or if its winter, near a fence or tree that has snow on it).  Have your friend turn to an attractive angle that shows the flower on the hat, and take a couple of photos, one should be close up on her head to show the hat in detail, in another maybe she could be holding a snowball as if she’s going to throw it, in the next maybe sprinkle a light dusting of snow onto the hat and a little on her hair and take another closeup, with her looking like she’s laughing.  Now upload that series of photos to etsy.

    What if you can’t find a friend willing to do this, or its not snowing where your live, or its still summer and you’re getting your listing ready for fall and winter so NOTHING outside looks like its the right season.  Okay, there are ways around all of that.

    A wig head can wear your hat, its probably best if its not a white Styrofoam wig head though, because we might surround it with white stuff, they sell black velvet covered wig heads at a lot of craft stores, if you can get one of those that’s great, or one that is made to look more real, with the skin, face and eyes colored in.

    Now, take some quilt batting and spread it out on your table to look like snow, put the hat on the wig head, dig out your Christmas stuff and find some fake evergreen or holly to set around on the quilt batting. Now take your pictures.  Or, if you had to use a white wig head, maybe you could go with a more fall like setting, put down a festive fall tablecloth, surround the wig head with some fall decor like gourds, colorful leaves, ornamental corn.

    Whatever you do with the background, make it look interesting and related to you item in some way, take photo.  Now slightly rearrange everything and take a photo from a different angle.  In a couple of the photos maybe drape the hat instead of using the wig head.

    Now, make sure that you are taking your photos in good lighting, outdoor lighting, but not in direct sunlight is best to show the true colors of all you items.  Upload you photos, pick the most eye-grabbing one and move it to the first spot, adjust the thumbnail to best showcase the item.

    As an example of some of these principles, look at my featured photo of my T-shirt above, now, does that photo look better, or would a photo of the shirt draped over a table look better?  Which one makes you want to buy the shirt, and which one makes you think of laundry?  😉

    The etsy title

    I’m going to give you a little disclaimer, there is a lot of disagreement about what makes a good etsy title.  Some say keep it short and descriptive,  easy on the eye.

    What I learned from a few of the most successful etsy shops though is this, make your title include as many keywords as you can, and separate those keywords and phrases by commas, because they are also going to be your tags a little later on.

    Now, what do I mean by keywords and phrases?  Well, for our hat it would look something like this.

    Knitted hat, knitted green beanie, hat with flower, machine washable hat, warm winter hat, women’s winter wear, pink green flowers.

     

    Item Description

    Okay, before you get to the description you’ll answer some questions about who made the item, when it was made, what it is for, what category you want it listed in, the price, etc.  I’ll let you figure those out because they are fairly self explanatory.

    For the actual description though, you want to make sure it is short enough that people will read it, interesting, and contains enough information to answer the questions someone might have.

    So, for our hat we might say something like.  “Winter is coming! Get ready for it with it with this lovely pale green knitted beanie that has a feminine pink flower on the rim.  This hat is made from machine washable acrylic yarn that is excellent in its ability to retain its shape and soft texture wash after wash.  And its also convenient to dry, just lay it flat on a towel and it dries very quickly because the acrylic yarn doesn’t absorb much water to start with.  This hat is a one size fits most adult hat, it stretches so it can fit hat sizes ranging from small to extra large without any struggle.”

    Now, if you have other items on etsy that might go with this hat, say a pair of mittens in a matching color you can add, pair this hat with the mittens found at _______________ (insert etsy listing link), to stay even warmer this winter!

    A few tips on your description.

    Include as many of your keywords and phrases into it as you can without sounding silly.

    Link to other listings in your shop if they relate to this listing in any way, for example, hats in other colors, mittens in accompanying colors, a scarf that would go nicely with the hat, etc, also make those descriptions link back to this one when you are done.

    Try to anticipate questions someone might have about the item, and try to answer them.

    Make it sound good.  Which of these two descriptive phrases sounds best: “synthetic yarn” or, “machine washable acrylic yarn that is excellent in its ability to retain its shape and soft texture was after wash”?  Try to think like the customer and how each phrase would sound to you.

     

    The etsy tags

    After your description you will set up your shipping options, shop section, and various things like that which are fairly self explanatory, but the next item which most people need help with is the tags.

    The first tags you should list will be exactly the same as your title, just copy your title, paste it in the tags, and click “add”.  If you broke your title up into short phrases with commas between like we described above, each phrase will now be a separate tag.

    Now, after pasting the title into the tags field, you will find you have room left for some more tags, in the case of our hat, if you used the title above, we have room for six more tags.  Now you need to think of 6 more descriptive phrases for the hat, you want to use all the tags you’re allowed, because tags along with keywords in your title and description, is how the etsy search engine finds your listing.  This is tricky, so here I’ll share with you a tool you can use here, and in creating your titles.

    Use Marmalead

    Go to http://marmalead.com and sign up for the free version.  In the search field at the top of the marmalead page you’ll type in a quick description of your item.  For example, “Green knitted hat with pink crochet flower”.  It will search etsy and find similar items scroll past the “matching items” down to the section that says, “tags used”.  You can then use the arrows to sort these various ways.  First sort for the ones that have the best rank, a good rank number is small, for instance, if a tag ranks as “1” it means that if you search that phrase on etsy it comes up on page one, so with rank, the lower the number the better.

    The next part of the marmalead site to use is the “views/item”, use the arrow to sort that so that the highest numbers show on top.  This will show you which tags resulted in the most views.

    Get some tags from both the lower ranking numbers and the high views sections.  Low ranking numbers are good because people will only click through a few pages when looking for something, however a low ranking number can also be deceptive because it might just means that no one else uses that tag, so if you search specifically for that tag, only that one item matches so it comes up first.  In that case you need to look at the tag and think about how likely it is that someone is actually going to search that term.

    The “views/item” with a high number means the items with that tag is getting a lot of actual views, so obviously people are searching relevant terms for that tag.

    By getting some of your tags from the lower ranking numbers and some from high view numbers, you hedging your bets and increasing the chances of your item ending up on pages 1-5 of some shoppers search.  If you can find tags that are both relevant to your item, with high views and a low ranking, that is most definitely a tag you want to use!

     

    Materials

    In the materials field list your materials, keep in mind some hints from the description field, “machine washable acrylic yarn” sounds better to me than just “synthetic yarn” or “acrylic yarn”.

     

    Other fields

    Next you have fields for “occasion”, “style”, and “recipient”.

    If there is a gift-giving holiday coming up select it from the “occasion” field, of course if your item is a wedding cake topper, you’d select “weddings” and if it was a happy birthday banner you’d select “birthday”, but if your item isn’t strictly related to a specific event, you can pick whatever the next gift giving occasion is, and if nothing suitable is coming up you can leave it blank for now.  You can always come and change these fields later as another holiday or gift giving occasion draws near.

    If the item fits into a specific style, select that from the style fields.

    If your item is very clearly for one type of recipient, for instance, “women” or “teen girls”, select that from the recipient field.  If it really would be fine for anyone, just leave that blank.

     

    Now publish your listing.

    A few more etsy tips

    A few more tips for etsy that arent’ specifically about how to create a listing.

    List or renew frequently

    Etsy’s search engines favor new or newly renewed listings.  So if you have 50 items items on etsy they shouldn’t all renew the same day, try to stagger the renewal times out.  Each etsy listing lasts four months, approximately 120 days, so ideally you’d have at least 120 items with at least one item renewing each day, that way there always fresh or freshly renewed content on your shop, but you are never paying to renew an item before it expires.

    As you set your items up, if you choose to have them auto renew, then once you get enough items listed, one per day, they will renew one at a time as well, so that your shop always looks active to etsy’s search engines.

     

    List a lot.

    Shops with more listings are favored by etsy’s search engines.  Etsy itself is a business, and etsy makes its money not only when someone buys something, but also when each seller lists or renews something.  It makes sense that etsy favors the sellers that “contribute” more to etsy’s bottom line by listing a lot of stuff and renewing often.

    Aside from the search engines, think from a shoppers point of view.  Your etsy shop is your store front.  How would you feel if you walked into your local clothing store and they only had three items in the store?  Would you come back?  Shoppers feel the same way if they come to your etsy shop and see three items.

     

    Sales generate more sales

    Etsy’s search engines also favor shops that make sales, so run all your sales through etsy.  Get the “Sell on etsy” app for your smart phone, now, when you are out selling somewhere else, such as a farmer’s market, or even at home with a friend.  Run your sale through etsy.  It counts as an etsy sale and so will help generate other etsy sales. Yes, it costs you some fees that it wouldn’t cost if you sold in person without the etsy app, but think of that as advertising money, a way to increase your sales over the long hall.